The person who recorded and posted one of two YouTube videos claims it shows something huge, reptilian, and mysterious flying above a Papua New Guinea beach. He tries to describe it as definitive proof that the Ropen, a "living dinosaur," has finally been caught on video; it's a claim that supports what many creationists believe is evidence that humans and dinosaurs actually lived (and still live) at the same time. However, after all the pop-up captions, commentaries, and a few blurry camera shots, the claim that the ropen does exists appears to be premature.
Early in the video, one gets a good view of the "creature." And immediately, something other than the "bat-like" wings, appendage on the back of the head, and the long, repitilian tail is present. The contours of the sleek wing, body and tail, look more like its covered with feathers. The tail itself looks like one or two long feathers. It doesn't even look like the prehistoric pterosaur (which is not a dinosaur, by the way); another claim made about the Ropen.
Ropen is a legend told by the natives throughout Papua New Guinea. It goes by several names, based on the islands where they were supposedly spotted. Most natives in rural areas describe the beast as being nocturnal and producing bioluminescent light.
Over the years, several Americans and Europeans (mostly missionaries) reported seeing the beast. During World War Two, one American soldier, Duane Hodgkinson, claimed to have seen this giant monster. However, he didn’t come forward with his eyewitness account until he was interviewed in a video in 2005 by cryptozoologist, author and videographer on the subject, Jonathon Whitcomb.
Although Ropen is generally a legend in Papua New Guinea, the beast has garnered serious interests from a group of Creationists and cryptozoologists. When researching the beast on the Internet, this writer came across names like Whitcomb, David Woetzels, Paul Nation, and Carl Baugh. Nation is a self-described “adventurist” and cryptozoologist. Baugh is the director of the Texas based Creation Science Museum – an organization that funds expeditions meant to prove that dinosaurs and men existed at the same time. Whitcomb, Woetzels, and Nation are also associated with this museum. In Nation’s case, the museum funded some of his expeditions between 1994 and 2004. Baugh joined him on least one of them.
On top of proving that these creatures exists, the four men believe that finding a “living fossil” as they refer to the Ropen, will also prove that the world is actually 6000 years old, thus proving that Evolution couldn’t happen (how this variation of the Young Earth theory and the “living fossil” will disprove Evolution is never really fully explained in the numerous websites that this organization put out).
The creature and the creationist gain some international notoriety. Shows such as the Science Fiction (Sy-Fy) Channel’s “Destination Truth”, and History Channel’s “Monster Quest” did segments on it. To the credit of these two shows, they sent films crews and researchers to the island tosearch for hard evidence. Although some strange lights in the night sky were seen and video-taped, nothing definitive ever materialized.
Now, going back to the video: the creature purported to be a Ropen appeared to have a long tail and huge wing-span. The Ropen had been reported by eye-witnesses as being massive; however, this cannot be confirmed by the video. Also, the beast appeared to be very similar to three types of birds.
Although this writer is not an ornithologist (or purports to be one), he noticed that the contour of the wings and the tail didn’t look reptilian. The wings were sleek and thin and appeared to fit the description of the wings of a bird.
A quick Internet search for the birds of Papua New Guinea revealed pictures of various species. There are more than 700 species of birds in this area. Some can only be found in isolated parts of the island. Another set of birds are found in a large areas of South Pacific and Eastern Indian Ocean. In this latter group, three birds, the White-tailed tropicbird, the Red-bill tropicbird, and the Frigate-bird appear to be very similar in description.
Also, known as Phaethon aethereus, the Red-billed tropicbird has the tail and some of the shape. However, it’s not a big bird. Also, the video seem to indicate that Ropen is dark in color. Red-billed tropicbirds have red bills, but the rest of the body is white or gray. Still, trying to confirm the color of the beast on the shaky, often unfocused camera is tough to do.
Here is a photo of the red-bill tropicbird: Phaethon_aethereus.jpg.
The White-tailed tropicbird also has the same characteristics as the Red-billed tropicbird. Still, size and color of the bird may come into question. However, the positioning of the wing is very similar to the Ropen in the video.
Here is a photo of the white-tailed tropicbird: Full resolution.
Finally, there’s the Frigate bird*, possibly the best identity for this mysterious "creature". Frigate birds like to hunt fish and other birds. The Ropen has been reported to hunt for fish from lakes and ocean. Also, the bird is dark colored, has a fairly large wingspan and long bill. The tail is not exactly the type that people described when they say the Ropen. However, a photo shows that two long feathers on its hindquarter can easily be misconstrued as being one long tail at certain angles.
Here is a photo of the Frigate bird in action: Full resolution.
Due to the quality of the video in question, there’s no way of determining if the Ropen was actually one of the three birds mentioned. It’s also inconclusive in terms of confirming the existence of this flying beast.
What is known is that several groups –the creation scientists in particular – have a vested interest in proving the Ropen’s existence. However, any or all attempts to find definitive evidence of its existence have been few and far between.
It appears the video is not the proof. It doesn’t prove anything.
Here is a link for the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odRXeRIL3Ew&feature=related
* NOTE: Since its first posting, many science blog sites have confirmed that it was a frigatebird. In fact, some people with better eyes than this writer, claimed that the bird had a white underbelly, making it a female. Also, other purported films and video have been debunked. One group Cryptomundo.com viewed a supposed 1924 version of the Ropen and claimed it was a hoax. There's no word if they have seen the most recent YouTube videos at the heart of this story.
(Warning: some of the information on the Ropen comes from websites linked to “research” group mentioned in this article. In fact, most of the information on the Internet comes from these sites).
“Whitcomb’s Book, Searching for Ropens, Asserts Pterodactyl Reported in Papua New Guinea (2006): E-World Wire: http://www.eworldwire.com/pres sreleases/15277
“Pterosaurs Still Living: Ropen Light Sighting by David Woetzel (Interview by Jonathon Whitcomb)” (retrieved 2010): LA Attorney Video.com: http://www.laattorneyvideo.com /nonlegal/pterosaurs/Woetzel/
“Ropen (retrieved 2010)”; Monstropedia.org http://www.monstropedia.org/in dex.php?title=Ropen
“Indava and Ropen of Papua New Guinea (retrieved 2010)”: Reopen: http://www.ropens.com/indava/